SpringBoard, an official blogger for the 2016 National Genealogical Society (NGS) Family History Conference, is pleased to offer a review of this BCG Skillbuilding lecture, presented 7 May 2016.

S401, Shellee A. Morehead, PhD, CG, “Clusters and Chains for Genealogical Success”

Reviewed by Jean Atkinson Andrews, CG

Shellee lectured on using extended family groups and migration patterns to identify family relationships. She provided information that applies to every ethnicity, location, and time period. Explaining cluster genealogy as the tracking of whole families, Shellee presented a broad list of potential relationships and urged the audience to expand rather than limit their scope. Beyond family and extended family, she suggested considering shopkeepers, midwives, and people from the same town or parish. People who associated together prior to immigration would often be found in similar relationships in the new country or location.

Shellee Morehead, PhD, CG
Photo Courtesy of Jean Andrews, CG

“Birds of passage” are people who came to the United States then later returned to their homeland one or more times to bring others to America. Young men, often unmarried, were frequently the initial pioneers. Other family members followed. Constructing timelines helps identify these people; tracking their movements can show chains of subsequent migration and prevent errors of identity.

Shellee’s case study example used Italian immigrant Michele Lautieri, believed born about 1882 in a town whose records ended in 1865. His parents were unknown. Shellee analyzed passenger and census list details and triaged multiple passenger lists to reveal patterns of movement based on Michele’s relationships. Studying movements, associations, and knowing related family such as siblings is necessary to separate families of similar names. Naming patterns and the custom of reusing names when older children die young are significant and can provide hints to hometowns and family groups.

Although Shellee’s case study example used an Italian immigrant, the methods she demonstrated apply to any time and place where migration took place.


A recording of this lecture may be previewed and ordered from PlaybackNow.

The words Certified Genealogist are a registered certification mark, and the designations CG, CGL, and Certified Genealogical Lecturer are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists®, used under license by board certificants after periodic evaluation.